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Mark Dougherty, BMus 1987 (died 25 December 2020, aged 55)


Obituary can be found online at


Tributes paid after death of Mark Dougherty, 'immensely talented' Northern Ireland musical director


Northern Ireland's arts community was plunged into Christmas Day mourning after the death of Mark Dougherty - one of the region's most gifted musical directors and composers.


Mark, who was MD on Riverdance for five years and worked with stars like Van Morrison, Johnny Mathis, Suzi Quatro and John Barrowman, passed away in hospital in Belfast.


Several years ago he was seriously ill after a trip to Asia.


Mark, who was in his mid-50s, was the MD of dozens of pantomimes in Belfast, and he would have been working at the Grand Opera House with May McFettridge if the coronavirus crisis had not forced the theatre to abandon plans for this year's production.

Actor Paddy Jenkins, who was a star of the Opera House shows, said: "Mark was an immensely talented man and I will miss him being in the orchestra pit in years to come. But I will also miss his laughs and his company in the Crown bar after the curtain came down.


"It's particularly sad for the music man of so many pantomimes to pass on Christmas Day in the first year of him not being involved with panto."


Friends said that it wasn't unusual for Mark, a Queen's University Belfast graduate, to be involved in as many as four pantomimes - sometimes more - in Northern Ireland in the same year.


Mark had also been involved with pantos across the water and among his most memorable successes were shows starring the American entertainer John Barrowman.

Veteran Belfast-based producer Michael Poynor said he had worked on 32 productions with Mark over the past 26 years.


"He was a lovely, kind, erudite, witty gentleman of many talents," he said, adding: "Mark, you will be missed by very many people … may many angels sing thee to thy rest, and, no doubt, you'll conduct them superbly."


Mark wrote a large number of shows, including Pride and Prejudice: The Musical at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, and Jonathan Harker and Dracula, which was seen across the UK.


He conducted the cast and chorus of a touring version of the hit musical Les Miserables, which sold out venues across Britain.

Mark also oversaw the music in Celtic Thunder, which played to an average of 7,500 people every night on a 50-city tour of America.


He was MD on a series of successful UK tours of musicals like 42nd Street; West Side Story and Cabaret.


Closer to home Mark scored and produced the cast album of the musical Dancing Shoes about legendary Belfast footballer George Best.


He was also involved with the Ulster Scots musical On Eagle's Wing in the Odyssey Arena, and co-wrote the Belfast Carmen with playwright Martin Lynch.


One of Mark's career highlights was his work as musical director on Riverdance, the hugely popular Irish dance production.


Between 2000 and 2005 he was with Riverdance when it premiered in Italy, Spain, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and most famously China.


The production in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in the presence of Irish President Mary McAleese was later the subject of an acclaimed documentary.


Mark was also a much sought-after record producer who collaborated with American country star Don Williams on an album in Nashville. 

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